The differential association of conjugated equine estrogen and esterified estrogen with activated protein C resistance in postmenopausal women

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Clinical trials have demonstrated that oral conjugated equine estrogen (CEE) therapy with or without medroxyprogesterone (MPA) increases venous thrombotic risk but this safety issue has not been investigated for other oral estrogens. Based on observational study findings that esterified estrogen (EE) was not associated with venous thrombotic risk whereas CEE was, we hypothesized that CEE users would be more resistant to activated protein C (APC), a prothrombotic phenotype, than EE users.


We conducted an observational, cross-sectional study of postmenopausal women 30–89 years old who were controls in a case–control study of venous thrombosis. Use of CEE, EE, and MPA at the time of phlebotomy was determined using computerized pharmacy records. APC resistance was measured in plasma by the endogenous thrombin potential normalized APC sensitivity ratio. Adjusted mean APC resistance values were compared across estrogen type and CEE:EE ratios are presented.


There were 119 CEE and 92 EE users at the time of phlebotomy. Compared with EE users, CEE users had APC resistance measures that were 52% higher (1.52; 95% confidence intervals: 1.07–2.17) in adjusted analyses. Restricting to modal dose users (0.625 mg) and stratifying by MPA use did not materially change associations.


CEE use was associated with higher levels of APC resistance when compared with EE use in postmenopausal women. These findings might provide an explanation for the higher risk of venous thromboembolism previously observed with CEE compared with EE use and, if replicated, may have safety implications for women when choosing an estrogen for symptom relief.

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